Falling for Fall: Just a Brief Update amidst the Flurry of This Week

1.  It’s a rich and full week here in our neck of the woods. Students from all over the country are coming to campus for the Doctor of Theology residency week. It will be exciting to meet many of these folks in person for the first time, as we’ve been doing our residencies online for the past year and a half because of the virus. People are better than pixels, even for us introverts! In addition to the residency this week, there’s my regular course load to teach, a new ICL class starting tomorrow, and a wedding to conduct this Saturday. All good stuff.

2.  It was gratifying to help my first student across the dissertation finish line last month to complete his Th.D. degree requirements. His research project focused on the semiotics of Genesis 1, and it was filled with marvelous insights. If he can expand his work through Genesis 3, it would make for an excellent book that may well get a sizeable audience. We will do his hooding ceremony next May, Lord willing. I have another ThD student in the pipeline right now who is focusing on contextual evangelism.

3.  Years ago we had a parishioner from Missouri whose dilapidated pickup truck was nicknamed “Old Blue.” We stole that name and applied it to our 2000 Chrysler Town & Country minivan, which we now use like a truck (e.g., hauling green waste, helping people move, transferring cardboard to the recycling center, etc.). Well, Old Blue is getting older—like the rest of us. I’m not sure if most of the brake fluid drained out, or if the brake pads need to be replaced, but it’s no longer safe to drive. Still, I’d like to get a few more years out of it, so I need to troubleshoot this puppy.

4.  Speaking of repairs, the wind blew my shed door closed last week right as I was pulling the lawn tractor into it. The resulting collision bent the axle and tie rod, so that’s another equipment repair bill. The tractor is about 24 years old, and an upgrade is probably in order soon, but I’d like to get a few more years out of it if I can. On a happier note, our two main vehicles are running great. Ha!

5.  My Zinnia’s revived and flourished throughout the summer, and they’re a definite go for next year. They made a great follow-up to my stunning red and yellow tulips, which really exploded in the spring. The petunias were just kind of meh, so we may go back to impatiens next time around. Alas, the dogwood tree had to be removed because of disease, but the holly tree is still soaring into the sky. I may need to get it trimmed again next year. My cherry tree is doing o.k., but it needs some TLC. We had too many aphids munching on it this summer, and I didn’t know how to handle them. After a little bit of research, I now have a plan. (Hopefully it will work!)

6.  It’s now time to switch gears and get our mums into the hanging baskets. Fall has a magic to it like no other season. Bring it on!

The Christ Community, Part 13: The Church as a Golden Lampstand (Revelation 1:9-3:22)

If you were looking for a new church home, what would you be looking for? What would be the criteria by which you make your selection? Size? Location? Style of Worship? Average age of the parishioners? How about facilities? Or the ministry programs? Or the preaching?

There are probably as many answers to that question as there are believers. Different people look for different things when it comes to finding a church. And trying to satisfy everyone is an absolute impossibility. But have you ever wondered, “What does Jesus look for in a church?” After all, it’s his church, right? What are the criteria by which he makes an evaluation?

Revelation 2-3 tell us. In these chapters we catch a glimpse of seven report cards for seven first-century churches in Asia Minor. The criteria Jesus uses to evaluate them may be different from our own. Now, Jesus is not looking for a new church home, but he is looking for a home in his church. What is it that makes him feel like he belongs in a group of believers? This message takes a summary look at that question in the context of John’s experience of the risen, glorified Christ. 

John meets an awe-inspiring Jesus, functioning like a great high priest, actively tending to his lamps—filling his people with the oil of his Holy Spirit and trimming their wicks with his corrective word. He does these things so they can shine upon the nations with the hope of the gospel. The image tells us that the church is a company of believers vitally joined to Christ, giving light to the world. That’s a creative, apocalyptic way of saying much the same as we saw in the image of the church as the ambassadors of Christ.

Are we connected to the center stem of this lampstand—Jesus—by faith? Are we burning brightly for him? Are we allowing ourselves to be “trimmed” (i.e., sanctified) by the Lord? He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.

He Laid Aside His Immunity to Pain

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as “God on the cross.” In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his.”

– John R. W. Stott

The Christ Community, Part 12: The Church as the Ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-6:2)

After winning the gold medal in the women’s tennis event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Serena Williams told a reporter, “I didn’t think it could be better than winning Wimbledon, but at Wimbledon, I was just playing for myself. The Olympic gold means more to me because I was playing for my country.” 

It’s an interesting observation. When you’re competing to bring honor only to yourself, the victory may be wide, but it’s not very deep. When you’re competing to bring honor to an entire country, however, the victory is both wide and deep. But why? It’s because—in a sense—you’re sharing the celebration with the people you represent. Your victory is their victory, too. The joy is wider, and the satisfaction is deeper.

Imagine the significance, then, of representing not just a nation but an entire kingdom. And not just any kingdom but the kingdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 5:20, Paul says: “We are…Christ’s ambassadors.” In other words, we’re sent by the risen King—Jesus Christ—and we are sent to operate on his behalf in a certain cultural setting. We’re royal citizens of heaven, but we’re also heaven’s ambassadors on earth in a certain time and a certain ZIP code. 

What are ambassadors? Ambassadors are government representatives commissioned to serve in a foreign country for the purpose of accurately communicating the position and policies of the government they represent so that the people to whom they speak will be brought into—and kept in a good relationship with—the government of the country they serve. When Paul writes, “We are Christ’s ambassadors,” he’s saying: The followers of Christ are the representatives of Christ in the worldThat is both an honor and a challenge. This sermon takes a brief look at both the marks and message of an ambassador.

When it comes to the marks, Paul indicates that ambassadors of Christ must display loyalty, authenticity, humility, and winsomeness. They must have confidence in the message God sends them with and truly value the people he has made. There’s a sense of urgency to the task, and they have to be willing to let God share his message through them.

When it comes to the message, ambassadors of Christ speak about God and his grace. They do this because the benefits of the gospel are astounding. Paul writes, “God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Ambassadors also speak about God and his invitation. They do so because the consequences of rejecting the gospel are disastrous. Paul writes, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5:20). To whom are you being an ambassador for Christ?

Contact This New Life directly for the sermon audio file.